Self-Care and Healthcare During COVID-19

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Self-Care and Healthcare During COVID-19

Is self-care taking a backburner to tending to the needs of others? Have you been putting off preventative care in light of the stay at home order? Most of us have been for the simple reason that we are overwhelmed by the changes in our lives and many doctors have not been seeing patients unless it is an emergency COVID or otherwise. That is about to change, however, as offices start to phase back into taking patients for non-emergency care.  I’ve had an ache here or there and wondered, is it serious enough to go to the doctor? Is it worth the risk of going out and potentially contracting COVID? So it begs the question, how do we truly stay healthy during this time? Since I’m not in the healthcare profession I really don’t know the answer. Luckily I know a few great healthcare professionals, so I thought I would reach out to one for some help.

Meet Dr. Karly Sukut-Neppl

Dr. Karly and her father have a joint dental practice located in Costa Mesa, CA. She completed her doctoral degree from Creighton University in 2001, her Invisalign certification in 2002, completed two residencies at the Esthetic Professionals School in Advanced Occlusion and Advanced Esthetics and has completed extensive training in BioEsthetics. She is a wife and mother of three and has a lot to share about some of the changes that will be taking place in healthcare as a result of COVID-19 and although they are challenging for healthcare professionals she is embracing the future.


1. As a physician, what do you recommend to friends/family and even patients to remain healthy during this difficult time?

Stress management is critical to our overall health.  Stress increases our cortisol levels and triggers our fight or flight reaction. Which is useful in acute situations, but very unhealthy long term.  So it's very important to implement strategies to reduce stress.  Exercise, meditation, and laughter are great ways to reset ourselves.  It may seem too simple, but try to control your thoughts and stay positive. it can be very easy to loop on a negative thought and not even realize you're doing it. Sometimes that is a choice you have to make and it takes discipline. But find the joy, it's out there and all around us.  

2. Mental health is a big concern right now. What can people do to stay mentally strong during uncertainty?

Celebrate all your wins. This goes back to trying to stay positive. Every morning, I  write down 5 things I am grateful for.  It really helps me start my day on a positive note and creates a thought discipline exercise. Talk to your supportive friends or family and share your concerns/fears.  Sometimes we need to just release and talk. Exercise is the quickest way to reduce your anxiety.  When we are anxious it elevates our heart rate. When you exercise it also elevates your heart rate, usually higher than it was when you were anxious and sitting there.  The trick is, once you finish exercising, like taking a run or walking up and down the stairs a few times, your heart rate will come down lower than it was before.  This lowered heart rate will reduce your anxiety.  So next time you're having a “moment”  go walk the steps a few times.  I swear it works. 

3. What are the top self-care strategies that you practice?

A healthy living food diet, preventive care such as regular brushing and flossing;-) a positive attitude, exercise and fun.  I love to hike and listen to music or podcasts.  There is a great app out there called ‘All Trails’ which can help you find so many wonderful trails.  Recently, I started using acupuncture. It has been an efficient stress management tool for me and I always feel really good afterward.  I also do pilates.  This has been an absolute game changer. As a dentist, some of the positions I work in are really challenging.  I try to manage my own posture as best as possible, but sometimes I compromise my posture to do the dentistry.  Pilates keeps my core, my posture and my strength in check.

For my family's self care strategies,  I like to plan “Adventures.”  In my experience, the excitement lives on long after the experience.  Adventures are simple like a bike ride to San Clemente (we live in San Juan Capistrano) or complex like deep sea fishing and a fresh fish dinner cooked by us to follow.  I also enforce FFF (Forced Family Fun) even if my kids aren’t that into whatever I come up with, they usually get on board and the memories and stories later create a lot of joy.    

4. Is it risky to get non-COVID healthcare?

This is a season of a lot of unknowns and conflicting information.  We need to be smart and make good choices for ourselves with the information we have.  Everything in our life is a risk/reward analysis.  There are a lot of non-urgent procedures out there that need to be addressed simply because your quality of life and overall health are compromised by not being treated.  I believe that these are personal choices.  It can be equally risky in these circumstances to go to the grocery store or the gas station.  

5. How do we physically distance but make sure we take care of our non-COVID healthcare needs including regular check ups, etc.

Sadly, we are seeing decreases in patients going to their doctors for heart and stroke issues due to COVID fear.  Clearly, this is far worse than having it resolved.  I will say, most health care offices have added additional layers to their universal precautions already taken to help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  The greatest challenge with COVID-19 is that it is a respiratory illness.  Controlling the air is very limited.  If you require health care, ask your doctor what they are doing in their office, so that you feel confident before you arrive.  Remember prevention is the best medicine.  So checkups are designed for prevention.  My mother-in-law found a mass in her neck during our COVID Quarantine.  I was adamant that she get it checked out and fortunately we were able to get a CT scan.  The mass was benign.  But I couldn’t imagine if it were not.  Malignant masses can metastasize quickly, so it doesn’t take very long for something manageable to become something major.

For our Dental Office, our patients are getting the best protection we can offer.

6. Should we be concerned with dental care going forward? How will the dental industry change?

We will all be forever changed by COVID-19.  I practice with my father and he was practicing full force during the AIDS epidemic.  They weren’t even wearing gloves in the 80’s.  Today, I cannot even fathom that.  Luckily, the dental industry has always managed aerosols.  That is why we use HVE and air filtration.  That said, because COVID-19 is invisible, not fully understood, and a respiratory airborne virus, additional measures are being taken that will become the norm.  Higher levels of air filtration to assure a "viral kill." New patient-related changes are being implemented such as  pre-rinsing with Hydrogen Peroxide (an antiviral), more extensive screening of patient health and temperature, required hand washing upon office entry, as well as adjusted patient traffic.  Honestly, the patients are much safer than us providers.  We have always used strict infection control measures and monitoring.  The OSHA and CDC guidelines are requiring us to wear more PPE than we are used to.  But that will keep us all safer ultimately.   Office designs may need to change to help with patient traffic flow and create Employee clean/changing  rooms.  I think we will see more efficient Patient centric care and less hopping from patient room to patient room as the PPE limitations don’t allow for this.  Out of challenges comes innovative new ways to provide care.  I am excited for the change.

For more information about Dr. Karly’s dental practice in Costa Mesa or to schedule a consultation go to

In the meantime, here is a self-care checklist you can use and remember, you are doing the best you can, we all are.

self-care checklist